Just like many people across the world, I have so many great memories of football, as well as some not so great ones. I remember the feeling of playing peewee football and intercepting a fourth quarter pass to seal the win for my team, the Rockets. I also remember crying when my Patriots lost to the New York Jets in the playoffs in 2011… and again in 2012 when they lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl. Football has long been my favorite sport, and I have a strong attachment to it, for better or for worse.
In recent years, several people have tried to capitalize on the tremendous popularity of the sport, some of who have gone as far as creating a new league of teams to give the people what they inevitably want — more football.
This year, that startup league has been the XFL, and no league has done it better than they have. The XFL product is simply better and more entertaining than the NFL. I’m not going to claim the on-field play is as good as the NFL, as the most talented players still play in the NFL. That being said, there are key ways that the XFL games on the weekend are better than the games the NFL is putting forth.
First off, the XFL has seemed to fix a problem that is pervasive for a lot of fans in the top league: officiating. The XFL has implemented a new sky judge, which is being flawlessly executed. For any play that needs confirmation, the sky judge can step in and do a review to make sure the calls are right on the field. It’s such a simple and seamless addition to the officiating crew, and it has led to the referees getting more calls correct.
Throughout the eight XFL games that I’ve watched, the crews have been very accurate and effective, and there have been hardly any calls that were wrong, which is something the NFL can hardly say in recent years.
It’s also nice to see the XFL bring back a physicality that the NFL has been missing the past few years. This doesn’t mean that the hits are flagrant in any way, but it simply means there can be a hard hit and viewers do not have to expect a flag for unnecessary roughness or roughing the passer seconds later. The play is overall more physical, and it is great for the audience to see players on the field who have something to prove for the livelihood of their careers each and every down.
Perhaps most importantly, the XFL has a shorter play clock, down to 25 seconds from the NFL’s 40 seconds. This rule was targeted to give games more play time. The faster pace of the game hasn’t quite promoted scoring, as many of the offenses in the league are still finding their rhythm. However, it has provided us with more plays per game so far, and more football is always better than less football.
There are also smaller changes to consider, like the new kickoff rules which have promoted more exciting and longer returns, as well as the added strategy of getting to choose between a 1-point, 2-point, or 3-point play after each touchdown. The league is also very transparent. On live TV we can hear coaches calling plays and talking to their quarterbacks, officials discussing penalties and reporters interviewing players right after good and bad plays.
Overall, the XFL is showing us that its games are more than enough to fill the void of no football after the NFL season ends. In fact, its presentation has been better than the NFL. Hopefully some of the inventive rule changes that the XFL has made will, in turn, put some much-needed pressure on the NFL to improve what it is doing next season.